Dutch Apple Cake – A Cook Book Failure

Maybe this recipe wasn't written down correctly?

Maybe this recipe wasn't written down correctly?

What I will never know about Aunt Lillian’s cook book is, how many of these hand written recipes did she try or even use on a regular basis? Like many of us, she probably had good intentions and either copied recipes from her mother, another relative, or a friend, or from another cookbook with every intention of making the dish. But like all of us never got around to cooking the recipe. And in the process of copying down recipes into her handwritten cookbook, no doubt she left out items from time to time. Her recipe for Dutch Apple Cake may be a good example of this.

It’s fall here in the deep south and apples are in season so I looked through Lillian’s cook book for apple recipes. There are a number of them, but this one looked interesting. But once I really got into it,and began comparing it with vintage recipes from the time period, I realized Aunt Lillian’s was missing a key ingredient – butter or shortening. Most cakes are made with this important ingredient! But I thought, well I better be true to the recipe and give it a try. Yuck, yuck, double yuck. It definately didn’t work.

But before we completely throw Aunt Lillian’s recipe out with the bath water, I have tried a 1950 version found on RecipeCurio.com. It is clipped from a newspaper and looked similar. Here’s the recipe.


Costs 32 cents (October 1950)
6 servings Woman’s Day Kitchen

1 cup sifted flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1/8 cup shortening
1 egg, grade B, well beaten
1/4 cup milk (I found this was not enough milk and used 1/2 cup milk)
4 cups sliced, tart apples
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons melted better

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut in shortening. Add combined egg and milk, and mix well. Spread on bottom and sides of greased 10 x 6 x 2-inch baking pan. Arrange apple slices in overlapping rows on batter, slightly pressing down straight edges. Sprinkle with mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Brush with butter. Bake in hot oven, 400° F., for about 40 minutes, or until apples are tender. Cut in squares, and serve warm, with cream or with foamy sauce, if desired.

Dough - the dough for Aunt Lillian's was smoother and creamier than for the 1950s recipe. It called for more milk.

Dough - the dough for Aunt Lillian's was smoother and creamier than for the 1950s recipe. It called for more milk.

Let’s compare it to Aunt Lillian’s

  • 1 1/2 c. sifted flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs separated
  • 1 cup milk

Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Beat the yolks and add the 1 cup milk to the yolks. Sift the 2 tsps baking powder with the 1 1/2 cups flour. Mix the milk and egg mixture with the flour and finally the beaten egg whites. Pour into a well buttered shallow pan.

Cover the cake with apples that are dusted thickly with flour and a tablespoon of suagr. Bake in a quick over for 20 minutes. Serve with any kind of sauce.

The result of Aunt Lillian’s was very egg-like, not very sweet, and very dense. I think adding the butter would have enhanced it a great deal.

The taste of the 1950s version was much improved! I encourage you to make a foamy sauce to cover it which will add a nice sweetness to it that it lacks if you eat it plain. Cream would be ok with it too. Eating it plain is just ok.

Dutch Apple Cake has a very long history in American cooking going back into the 19th century and maybe earlier. It was a favorite recipe of President Martin Van Buren in the early part of the 19th century. It’s popularity continues as I found references to it in cookbooks from 1884 (Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book), Fannie Farmer’s Boston Cooking-School Cook Book of 1924, the Rumford Complete Cookbook of 1931, Margaret Rudkin’s Pepperidge Farm Cook Book of 1963, and finally in the Joy of Cooking of 1972 with a fancier name – Apple Cockaigne!

Dutch Apple Cake in the Oven

Dutch Apple Cake in the Oven

So, my guess is that Aunt Lillian never made Dutch Apple Cake from her cook book.

Meanwhile I’ve purchased a whole new crop of vintage cookbooks to use as resources from a local antique store. I couldn’t even begin to buy all they had so I will go back every once and while and get more.

One in particular I’m excited about is “Things you have always wanted to know about Cooking” by Margaret Mitchell (not THE Margaret Mitchell) dated 1932. It describes in detail things that I’ve been curious about when making some of these recipes. How to do some of the cooking skills that were so commonly known by housewives back then.

More soon!

One Response to “Dutch Apple Cake – A Cook Book Failure”

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  1. [...] the infamous Dutch Apple Cake! Infamous, because in the fall of 2010 I tried making Aunt Lil’s recipe, which was a disaster. Maybe I should try again. After all, I’ve now got years of vintage [...]

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